Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Shall not Pass this Way Again

I expect to pass through this world but once.
Any good thing, therefore, that I can do
or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being
let me do it now.
Let me not defer nor neglect it,
for I shall not pass this way again.

- William Penn

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Wit and Judgement

Less judgment than wit is more sail than ballast.

- William Penn

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Begging the Question

Something has changed. Okay, so what else is new. Lots of things change. But this one sticks in my craw every time I hear it…the metamorphosis in current usage of the meaning of the phrase “That begs the question.” I always understood that is referred to a statement that contained a logical fallacy where one took for granted or assumed the thing that was being proved. And another name for this is a “circular argument.” For example, someone says, “lying is wrong, because one should always tell the truth.” Another example would be "The Bible is God’s word because it is always right.” Here the speaker is assuming the very point he or she wants to prove: because the Bible is always right, therefore it is God’s word. So one would be correct to reply, “That begs the question.”

A second and similar meaning comes from when one is using what one is trying to prove in the argument. This can come across as a subtle way to evade an issue. One might then say, “You are begging the question” or “that begs the question.”

However, a new usage has arisen that has no connection with it’s original. In current usage “beg the question” has come to mean, “that raises the question” or “that forces the question.” An example is: "The church is having a problem with attendance. That begs the question, what are we going to do about it?” Here the speaker is rather simply saying, “that raises the question.”

The original meaning of the phrase is, admittedly, difficult. In looking around to discover why this is, I found that it is a 1581 translation from Latin, petitio principii, found Aristotle’s book on logic, “Prior Analytics.” Some say that “beg the question” is not the best translation for people now, because at the time “beg” meant “I humbly submit.” Perhaps an easier translation would be, “I think you are assuming what you are trying to prove?” Or, “isn’t that a circular argument?”

So why does the new usage bug me. The original meaning was a (rather clever) way of calling into question someone’s reasoning. The new usage subverts this original usage and makes it a kin to “I beg to differ.” “Begging the question” ceases to call attention to a circular argument and simply means an unsolved issue needs an answer.

The meanings have nothing to do with each other and become confusing. They are confusing because they have nothing to do with each other. This does not beg the question. But it does raise the question, how will you use “That begs the question.”


Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

--Robert Frost

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Thursday, October 26, 2006


I hear many people today use the word "deconstruct." In fact, since the '90s we are hearing many people use the term “deconstruct”, deconstructionism, or deconstructionist. The reason for this is that “deconstructionist” philosophy and methodology in interpretation of literature, history, laws, scientific postulates etc. has become an important part of the way people do interpretation.

One could define deconstructionism as:

“a method of critical analysis of philosophical and literary language that emphasizes the internal workings of language and conceptual systems, the relational quality of meaning, and the assumptions implicit in forms of expression.

Deconstruction focuses on a text as such, rather than as an expression of the author's intention, stressing the limitlessness (or impossibility) of interpretation and rejecting the Western philosophical tradition of seeking certainty through reasoning by privileging certain types of interpretation and repressing others. It was effectively named and popularized by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida from the late 1960s and taken up particularly by U.S. literary critics.” (Oxford American Dictionary)

Deconstructionism urges us to re-look at the text. In doing so it asks us to always go back and see what the text might be saying and it might be interpreted differently. It encourages us to examine the sources and see if there are more sources than were originally used in the interpretation of the text or event. As Christians, this is good since we always want to be going back to the text and let it speak to us.

Deconstructionistic thinking warns us that we must be careful how we “absolutize” or privilege certain interpretations over others. It is wrong to accept an interpretation simply because it is written by a ruling class, a powerful party, or a “savant” within a group. We must let the text speak and be careful how we use referential thinking.

These positive aspects are good, making deconstruction a valuable idea and method. There are several weaknesses and problems in the deconstructionist approach one must be aware of.

1. It denies the importance of the author’s intention because it is not knowable. In doing so it leaves interpretation completely open to the “limitless possibilities of the text” and the limitless possibilities of a “reader oriented” approach to the text. Umberto Eco addresses this is his book “The Limits of Interpretation.” He says that texts cannot be interpreted any old way since the text has structure and operates according to various rules. He hypothesizes that the text forms it own “ideal reader” which limits the person the “intention of the text.”

2. Many deconstructionists see a limitless number of possible interpretations and therefore make the text meanlingness. Since everything is relative to the reader, the text will always means something different. The problem with this is that this limitless relativism does not allow us read a text and arrive at some precision of meaning.

3. Many deconstructionists base their understanding of the text on the idea that since we are all fallible readers, or since we all come at a text from different perspective, we will never really know an intention of the text. This leaves the meaning of a text open to an eternal drift based the relative reading of whoever is reading it.

Some correctives that we might apply:

1. All texts have authors and who had an intention. While we might not have absolute certainly of their intention, we must still be reading a text realizing that the text has intention not only because of it’s linguistic structure, but because with was written for a reason.

2. There are not limitless possibilities for interpreting a text (unless of course that was the author’s intention eg. James Joyce,Ulyssess). Readers must be aware of what they are bringing to the text. The reader must know the difference between “reading into” the text (isogesis) and reading from the text (exegesis).

3. While we are all fallible readers, a study of a number of interpreters will limit the interpretation to “cultural” groups and therefore give us the ability to see how “isogeis happens” by giving us a range of interpretations. One can compare the relative merits of each an arrive and a more “accepted” reading. This will hopefully give us a majority opinion and a better understanding of the text.

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Being Close to God

What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? -- Deut. 4:7

Come near to God and he will come near to you. --James 4:8

Intimacy…it is one of the things we most need and crave as human beings. Without it, we become lonely. Without the closeness of intimacy, we become strange…crazy lone-wolves.

We long to be known by others for who we are. We long to have that same depth of knowledge of others. To be intimate seems to have been created into us.

Intimacy…closeness with God is also created into us. God’s purpose in creating us was for us to be known by him. God knows us through and through (Psalm 139). But he also wants to be known by us. This is why he reveals himself to us in the Bible, in history, through creation, through Christ and through each other. God wants to be known…for who he really is.

That is one of the reasons why he has given us prayer, for through it, we are close to God. In what precedes the “Shema” (Deut. 6:4), where Israel’s basic understanding of God and their relationship with God is revealed, prayer is part of the core of their faith. When we draw near to God through the self-disclosure of prayer, we are nearer to God, and he is nearer to us. When we listen to what God says to us while we pray, we are nearer to God.

Prayer is one of those ways God has given us to be close to him. It’s a great pity not to take advantage of it.

Pray and be close to God.


• Is it your experience that you are close to God when you pray?
• Does it ever happen that you are not close when you pray? Why do you suppose that is?
• Are there barriers to closeness with God?
• How can we deal with those barriers?
• What else would you like to say about intimacy with God?

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Come let us walk in the light of YHWH

In the last days, the mountain of YHWH’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains. It will be raised above the hills and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of YHWH, to the house of the YHWH of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”

Come, O House of Jacob, let us walk in the Light of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:2,3,5)

Since the beginning, YHWH has made people to need him, to want him, to desire him. But since nearly the beginning, mankind has been of a creature of self-interest instead having interest in the YHWH, who made them. Even the nation of Israel, who YHWH established in order to reveal himself to the world, walked away from their creator. After all that YHWH has showed and done for them, they still focused on the whims and desires of kings and rulers, ironically, appointed by YHWH, rather than their own god-king.

People universally show a penchant for self-interest. Humanism, that once great movement that valued people for the reason of the innate greatness of mankind because they were created in the image of YHWH, was corrupted into a godless worship of the creature. The gift of reason, the handmaiden of theology, once so clearly understood to be too marvelous to have come into existence without out YHWH, became the standard by which everything was judged, even it’s creator. The creation around us instead of being cared for and nurtured because it was made by YHWH and reveals YHWH, has been mindlessly exploited and polluted to serve the purposes of it’s appointed caretakers.

In the midst of the grim history of mankind’s self-preoccupation, YHWH used individuals like Isaiah to call people back to their senses. He calls the people chosen by YHWH to reveal him to the world. Isaiah calls his people to bring the world back to the light. He calls Israel to be the light so that the nations again will see the light of YHWH. Israel, the people chosen by YHWH, were to be the nation where the people of the world would come for the wisdom of YHWH so that they might walk in the way of the YHWH.

And hasn’t this happened? Isn’t it amazing that even though Israel, for all it’s faults, was still used by YHWH to bring light and understanding to the nations. YHWHÂ’s new order for the world, announced by Isaiah is still being worked out by Israel’s Davidic line. Jesus, Israel’s messiah in the line of David, is seated in the temple of the “mountain of the Lord.” The nations are streaming to it to find the ways of YHWH and know his wisdom. All around the world, YHWH’s creatures stream to the “mountain of the Lord.”

YHWH’s people, anyone who is a part of the faithful “remnant” seeking his promised chosen one, are being used by him to bring the nations to the light. In spite of imperfections, in spite of inborn arrogance, YHWH’s redeemed show his light. God’s new order is being established in the world and will be established in the new earth.

Come let us walk in the light of YHWH.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

True reckoning...a perfect pilot

What ship, puzzled at sea, cons for the true reckoning?

Or, coming in, to avoid the bars, and follow the channel, a perfect pilot needs?

Here, sailor! Here, ship! take aboard the most perfect pilot,

Whom, in a little boat, putting off, and rowing, I, hailing you, offer.

—W. Whitman

Al Gore and the Environment

The movie "Inconvenient Truth", a documentary by former Vice-President Al Gore which I saw this past Saturday night, was a surprisingly good summary of the many types of evidence for both the fact of global warming, but also it’s consequences. In spite of some unfortunate use of out-of-context video clips used as examples for points made, as well as partisan jabs, the film shows that if global warming related consequences materialize, the world will experience a drastic increase in weather related disasters, but also a rise in sea-level that will cause inestimable damage to property and infrastructure, mass migration and possibly economic ruin. This of course depends on the reliability of the science that Mr. Gore is drawing from, as well has his synthesis of it. But as an outdoorsman who has seen glaciers melt in France and Switzerland during the past twenty years, I can only say that global warming is a fact. And if there is a real correlation between warming and carbon dioxide concentrations, then it's time to get to work.

As a Christian, I take this problem seriously because of our theology of Creation. God's creation shows who he is. He gave it to us so that we might know he exists, something of this power, his character and his beauty. But our Earth also shows how sinful actions and priorities by people have an affect on the world which reveals God. Sin has the affect of separating people from God. As we destroy the Earth, our actions keep people from having a revelation from God through the creation.

God has created the Earth as home for all people. Christians are to love all people. Loving God and loving people really is our motivation the care of the Earth. Do we love our children and our children's children enough to leave them a home that will be a joy to live in?

American Christians, who are part of a country that contributes 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions, should insist that our government take a leading role in their reduction. The task seems daunting, but if our faith in God is real, the respect and stewardship of his creation should be motivations for shouldering this responsibility of taking care of God's world and the people that Christ died for.


A Coroner Decides a Soldier's Guilt, but is it Justice?

Journalists in war zones run a great risk of being killed. They know this. They take the risks for the purpose of getting accurate news as well as for a paycheck. But when they are killed on a battlefield in order to gather information one must ask, who killed them: the bullet of the combatants, or their own will to be on the field of combat? It seems clear the answer is the latter. But this logic is being question by British courts.

Today we are seeing the relatives of slain reporter Terry Lloyd wanting to blame the death on American forces who in during a battle in the Iraq war, "illegally" fired on vehicle that witnesses said was carrying the wounded Lloyd from the scene to a place where he could get treatment. A British "coroner has ruled that a British journalist who died in Iraq at the start of the war was unlawfully killed by American forces." (CNN report Oct. 14, 2006)

This is a troubling perspective, one that comes from people who are grieving the loss of their loved one, wanting "justice" for his death. But it's a perspective that comes from a detached point of view. In spite of videos and testimonies, a civilian court is in error to think that battle conditions can be put on hold so that everyone who is wounded in battle can be evacuated. The stress, confusion and chaos of a battlefield cannot preclude the possibility that a vehicle, not clearly part of a side in a fight, and not flying a flag of truce, be fired upon.

What is more troubling is that there seems to be an effort to use the death of this British citizen, by his family members and others, to make a value judgement on the behaviour of the American troops as well as a cultural statement about America, not to mention political statement condemning America's and Britain’s action in Iraq. Notice this quote from a report by CNN:

"The evidence of how Terry Lloyd was unlawfully killed has shown that this was not, I wish to stress, a friendly fire blue on blue incident or a crossfire incident. It was a despicable, deliberate, vengeful act, particularly as it came many minutes after the end of the initial exchanges in which Mr. Lloyd had been hit by an Iraqi bullet."

... "U.S. forces appeared to have allowed their soldiers to behave like trigger-happy cowboys in an area in which there were civilians travelling on a highway, both Iraqi and European."

How is it known that the soldiers acted deliberately to kill a journalist and that with the motive of vengeance? How is it known that the commanders of the soldiers permitted them to act as "trigger-happy cowboys", a statement itself that has a cultural slur as well as calling into question the training and professionalism of the commanders and soldiers?

These two statements imply value judgements that go far beyond the facts of Lloyd having been killed on a battlefield by American soldiers. It brings judgement on the motives and methods of the soldiers, judgements that are not supported by the evidence given. Unfortunately, statements such as these are not helpful in a cross-cultural situation and should be apologized for.

Has justice been served? This is not a war crime covered under international law. The accidental killing in, which must be emphasized, the midst of a battle cannot be seen as illegal or unlawful.

The death of Mr. Lloyd is a sad and tragic thing. Condolences are to be offered to the family and friends. But to blame soldiers in the heat of battle for the illegal death of journalist who willingly entered and manoeuvred on a battlefield between warring sides, is not to be accepted as justice.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

What things are first?

"You can't get second things by putting them first: you can get second things only by putting first things first. From which it would follow that the question, 'What things are first?' is of concern not only to philosophers but to everyone. What is a first thing? The only reply I can offer here is that if we do not know, then the first and only truly practical thing is to set about finding out." - C.S. Lewis "First and Second Things" from God in the Dock.

"Seek first the his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well." - Jesus, Matthew 6:33

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. - Paul, the Apostle 1 Corinthians 15

First things, are kind of magical. They have a life of their own. They are the forefront of life. But we often place second things first, and try to have second things before putting first things in place in our lives. Without the first things, seconds things, really secondary things will take priority resulting in living life in a topsy-turvy, missing-the-point way. So where to begin...

Faith is a first thing. We can tell because without faith, there is no true life and no true spiritual life.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Patrick O'Brian on aging

"As for the blue devils of which you complain, my dear, do not expect too much from my remedies: youth and unthinking happiness are not to be had in a bottle, alas. You are to consider that a certain melancholy and often a certain irascibility accompany advancing age: indeed it might be said that advancing age equals ill-temper. On reaching the middle years a man perceives that he is no longer able to do certain things, that what looks he may have had are deserting him, that he has a ponderous great belly, and that however he may burn he is no longer attractive to women; and he rebels. Fortitude, resignation, and philosophy are of more value than any pills, red, white or blue."

-Stephen Maturin speaking to Jack Aubrey

from Patrick O’Brian
The Truelove

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

First things first...

This is a first...the first time I've posted a my thoughts in a blog. While an exciting prospect, it's very intimidating to start putting ones thoughts out on the Internet for all to see. Afterall, who has that much to say to such a diverse world. Real motivations are hard to accept and I'm not going to say exactly why I've decided to take the plunge. But I've journaled and enjoy doing that. Maybe this expereince will make a difference in how I communicate both with myself and to others.

First time things are kind of magical. I love first time things. I celebrate them when they happen. I was described myself as a shameless experience seeker. That's because I seek first time things. So it's natural that when the opportunity comes around to do a brand a new thing, like having a "blog" I'd shamelessly pursue that experience. So, here I am again...another first time thing.